The power structure of the Russian State The “Tsar” The Boyars (chiefs of bureaucracy) The intelligentsia (middle class, small layer) The Narod (Common People)
The Origin of the Soviet Union First World War: Russia fights against Germany and Austria. Russia becomes exhausted, the last Emperor Nicholas II abdicates. Lenin’s Bolshevik party overthrows the provisional government on 25th October / 7 th November 1917.
What was Bolshevism? 1903 Lenin splits the Socialist movement: instead of working through parliamentary means (menshevism or Social Democracy), he advocates a dictatorship of the proletariat. The Russian revolution was the first proletarian revolution. The Bolshevik party renamed Communist. Lenin unleashes terror in the name of class warfare. In 1921, with the Civil War over, Lenin announces the New Economic Plan, allows small business to thrive.
The Soviet Empire? USSR occupies most of territory of the former Russian Empire. Exceptions: Finland, Poland, Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) which become independent in 1918 (and were reabsorbed after 1945). 1924 Lenin dies, Georgian Bolshevik Josef Stalin consolidates power.
What was Stalinism? 1920s saw rise of Fascism in Germany, Italy: war inevitable to defend the only communist country Socialism in one country meant building a powerful industrial state 1928 First Five-Year Plan to raise production. Millions arrested, used as slave labour in construction Electrification of the country: dams and canals
Collectivization of Agriculture Decision to sell grain abroad to purchase industrial equipment Peasants forced into collectives, contributing their own livestock, land, equipment Industrialization of agriculture: tractors and combines Partly class war against peasants
“Holodomor” In 1933 the crops fail, Soviets confiscate grain Millions die of starvation in the villages, especially in Ukraine Was it genocide by Russians against Ukrainians?
“Collectivization” of agriculture Theory: increased output possible due to concentration, mechanization Doubtful results: eradication of peasants’ motivation Millions of people are starved to death when land and food is confiscated Soviet agriculture permanently disabled
Industrialization Introduction of ambitious 5-year plans: Successful development of heavy industry. Tractors, trucks, planes, Moscow metro Soviet Union becomes a sophisticated industrial power Massive exploitation of prisoners’ work. Labour camps. Stalin’s utopian projects: White (Belomor) Sea Canal
PURGES: THE GREAT TERROR Elimination of political rivals: murder of Sergei Kirov (1934) show trials of fellow Bolsheviks the Great Terror (peak in 1937) Millions arrested, shipped to Siberia, worked to death in the GULAG camps
Gulags: Labour camps Official police data. Reported to Stalin by Minister Kruglov. Source: Ahlberg 1992
Why the Terror? Stalin falsified history to eliminate Trotsky from the history books Wrote his own History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union exaggerating his own role Feared a coup d’état and his own replacement by Trotsky, in exile in various countries Trotsky finally murdered in Mexico City by a Soviet agent in 1940
Socialist Realism Term invented in 1932 to set Soviet policy on literature as the central art-form. Promulgated at the first Congress of Union of Soviet Writers (1934) by Zhdanov. Objective: to control literature and make it serve Stalin’s objective of Socialism in one country. To replace ambiguous (hence dangerous) avant-garde art forms with more traditional ones.
The Cultural Program Zhdanov’s assignment: develop model of organization for all the arts. Use the creation of artists’ unions to reward and control: dachas and royalties for the compliant; poverty and eventual arrest for the uncooperative. Literature model later applied to film, visual arts, music, even architecture.
Voloshyn, Reconstruction of Dnieper Hydro Plant, 1947
The Worker and the Collective Farmer (Рабочий и Колхозница) Vera Mukhina Created for the 1937 International Exhibition in Paris; re-erected in the Exhibition of Economic Achievements, Moscow; Recently restored
“Stalin as an organizer of the October Revolution” by Karp Trokhimenko
Socialist Realism: Meaning? Formula worked out by Maxim Gorky: Literature must be realistic (i.e., believable). Appeal to the newly literate masses of workers and peasants. “Party-minded” (Marxist-Leninist) Optimistic – apotheosis at end.
“Sotsrealism” in literature “Bildungsroman” – about the education of an individual with whom the reader is supposed to identify. “young positive hero”of correct class background, i.e., son of worker, overcomes difficulties thanks to help of older Bolshevik, perhaps party member, triumphs over difficulties at the end and has his consciousness raised.
Socialist Realist FilmLiubov Orlova in film Circus.Liubov Orlova in film Circus
The Prelude to War Molotov-Ribbentrop pact 23 August 1939. Germany and USSR: secret protocols divide Eastern Europe into “spheres of interest.” USSR granted Eastern Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Bessarabia (Moldavia).
Execution of Polish Officers In 1939 some 20,000 Polish officers surrendered to Soviets In 1940 Stalin gives the order for them to be executed Why? – they pose a risk in case of invasion; they represent a hostile force Falsification of history: Soviets claim they were murdered by the Germans
THE SECOND WORLD WAR (THE GREAT PATRIOTIC WAR) June 22, 1941 Germany invades USSR. Defence of Moscow and Leningrad July 1942 - February 1943 the Battle of Stalingrad “Generals win battles, economies win wars.”
Victory! In 1945 USSR is superpower. Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, part of Poland, Moldavia all absorbed into USSR. German city Königsberg (Kaliningrad) becomes Soviet.
The Cold War “Soviet bloc” of occupied countries is formed: East Germany (GDR), Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria. Winston Churchill’s Iron Curtain speech (Fulton, Missouri, 1946
“Personality Cult” Stalin as an Icon Religious-style indoctrination Forged history Stalin = Motherland People cried when he died Denounced by Nikita Khrushchev on 25 February1956 at 20 th Communist Party congress. Most popular leader in Russia today
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